Administration Action Comes in the Wake of Strong Bipartisan Congressional Opposition
WASHINGTON— Responding to strong Congressional pressure, the Trump Administration has officially withdrawn its controversial proposal to allow the sale of U.S. semi-automatic handguns to Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s security detail, which, in May of this year, made international headlines by attacking peaceful American protesters in Washington, D.C., reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We’re seeing the start of Turkey Arms Embargo 2.0,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We welcome today’s decision by the White House as a reflection of a growing willingness among policymakers, diplomats, legislators from both parties, and the broader foreign policy community to openly challenge Turkey’s increasingly anti-American conduct.”
News of New Hampshire gun-maker Sig Sauer’s proposed plan to sell $1.2 million in semi-automatic handguns and ammunition to President Erdogan’s bodyguards was first reported by The New York Times reporter Nicholas Fandos. The request for Congressional review of the matter was submitted on the eve of the May 16 attack in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, videotaped live by the ANCA’s Hamparian; that attack sent peaceful protesters to the hospital. To date, 19 people have been indicted for the brutal beatings, including 15 members of President Erdogan’s security detail.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Ed Royce (R-Calif.) were among the first to raise objections to the sale. Notably, Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) formally communicated to Secretary of State Tillerson his strong opposition to the deal, calling the conduct of the Turkish guards “unprofessional and brutal.” Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Dave Trott (R-Mich.) spearheaded a Congressional letter, cosigned by over 35 House colleagues, including Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman and Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), opposing the sale.
The U.S. House, in July of this year, passed the Trott Amendment, a measure strongly backed by the ANCA, against the arms sale. Following this vote, Rep. Trott, said: “We need to block this arms sale and once and for all point a finger in Erdogan’s chest and tell him that a strategic location does not place Turkey above the law.”
Earlier this month, an amendment authored by Appropriations Committee members Senators Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) successfully amended a must-pass appropriations bill, at the committee level, with legislative language opposing this weapons transaction. Sen. Van Hollen told the Washington Post that the appropriations panel’s vote in support of the measure sent “a strong, bipartisan message: We are not going to let President Erdogan’s personal bodyguards attack peaceful American protesters on American soil—and we’re certainly not going to sell them weapons while they do it.” The Washington Post editorial board called for a block of the gun sale as a “more meaningful way to suggest there is a price to be paid for such brutality.”
According to the Associated Press, “a spokesman for Sig Sauer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” The AP also reported that “lawmakers of both parties have asked the State Department to take extra precautions to ensure there’s not another violent incident this week by Turkish personnel during the UN gathering.”